Monday, December 17, 2012

PA Marcellus News Digest 12/17/12

PA Marcellus News Digest
December 17, 2012


SRBC Met December 14: Approved 20 Projects; Adopted Low Flow Protection Policy; Released Proposed Rulemaking

SRBC Newsroom
Dec 17
HARRISBURG, Pa. – The Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC; held its quarterly business meeting on December 14 in Annapolis, Md.  Among its actions, SRBC:
approved 20 water withdrawal and consumptive use applications and tabled 13 (see list below);
adopted a Low Flow Protection Policy;


DEP defends water-testing policy

Herald Standard
Steve Ferris
Dec 17
State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) testing of private water wells is specifically designed to detect substances from gas drilling or mining, officials said.

Shell’s Ethane Cracker Could Hinge On Act 13 Decision
NPR State Impact
Marie Cusick
Dec 17

Like some in Berks, Chester residents mobilize for fight
All alarmed by gas driller's plan to lay 30-inch pipeline 120 miles through region
Reading Eagle
Stephania Weaver
Dec 14
Berks County residents concerned about the possibility of a natural-gas pipeline coming through their backyards have found some kindred spirits in Chester County.

Exporting natural gas risky business for U.S.
Pitt Trib
Andrew Conte  and Lou Kilzer
Dec 15
Sitting with about 100 landowners inside the Wysox fire hall, Carolyn Knapp listened to a gas company landman discuss the money that would come from the energy trapped in the Marcellus shale a mile beneath her husband‘s farmland in Rome, Bradford County.

Amid drilling, a patois digs deep in Pennsylvania
Judith O. Etzel, The Derrick
Dec 16
OIL CITY - The oil and gas industry is ramping up all around us, thanks to the prolific and profitable new drilling destinations that bear a pretty little name like Marcellus or the industrial sounding label of Utica.

Shale drillers want to move wastewater on barges
Emily DeMarco
Dec 16
The shale gas drilling industry wants to move its wastewater by barge on rivers and lakes across the country. But the U.S. Coast Guard, which regulates the nation's waterways, must first decide whether it's safe.

Allegheny County Airport Authority will negotiate drilling with Consol
Pitt Trib
Tom Fontaine
Dec 14
The Allegheny County Airport Authority on Friday opted to negotiate a potential $250 million drilling deal with Consol Energy, which submitted what appeared to be the lower of two bids for the lucrative contract.

Stantec expanding in oil, gas mapping by buying Washington, Pa., firm
Pitt Trib
Sam Spatter
Dec 14
Landmark Survey and Mapping Inc., based in Washington, Pa., has been purchased by Stantec Inc., a Canadian-based design company that earlier acquired Burt Hill, an architecture firm, with offices in Pittsburgh and Butler.

Officials: Emergency communications lacking, corrected after natural gas release
Laura Legere
Dec 15
TUNKHANNOCK - Communication failures left some emergency agencies uninformed when a Monroe Twp. natural gas dehydration station allowed more than 5 million cubic feet of gas to vent loudly into the atmosphere the morning after Thanksgiving, officials said Friday during a meeting at the Wyoming County Emergency Management Agency office.

EPA backs Sierra Club on LNG export review

E&E News, EnergyWire
Hannah Northey and Jenny Mandel
Dec 13
(full text below)
The Sierra Club has won support from an important ally in its push for a federal assessment of the environmental impacts that could stem from liquefied natural gas exports: U.S. EPA.

The agency has urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in recent weeks to weigh the upstream implications of increased natural gas production when approving export terminals in Maryland and Oregon.

Dominion Resources Inc.'s proposal to re-engineer its LNG import terminal in Cove Point, Md., to accommodate exports "represents an opportunity for FERC and DOE to jointly and thoroughly consider the indirect and cumulative environmental impacts of exporting LNG," EPA said in a filing on the scope of the project's environmental review.

That comment, from the EPA regional office with jurisdiction over the project, is mirrored by a similar statement from the EPA regional office that oversees the proposed Jordan Cove Energy Project in Oregon.

"We believe it is appropriate to consider available information about the extent to which drilling activity might be stimulated by the construction of an LNG export facility on the West Coast, and any potential environmental effects associated with that drilling expansion," the regional office wrote.

They noted that the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said in a January 2012 report that LNG exports would be supplied largely through new natural gas production, and that about three-quarters of that production could be expected to come from unconventional shale gas plays.

The Sierra Club has been on the front lines -- and largely alone -- in its across-the-board opposition to proposals for facilities that would ship millions of tons of natural gas abroad each year. The group has intervened with DOE on projects around the country, arguing that exports should not move forward until a federal review of shale gas production has been conducted under the National Environmental Policy Act.

That would be a significant change from how natural gas project implications are often weighed -- on an ad hoc basis at the state, county and even city level (EnergyWire, Nov. 8).

The Sierra Club has faced an uphill battle. LNG exports have picked up steam in recent weeks with a slew of FERC "pre-filings" like those submitted for the Maryland and Oregon projects, and a generally favorable DOE economic assessment that could pave the way for new export permits.

But the Sierra Club has continued the drumbeat of its warning in concert with a campaign called "Beyond Natural Gas," which highlights environmental and health risks associated with natural gas production and argues against a reliance on fossil fuel energy sources of any sort.

DOE and FERC's main argument against evaluating upstream impacts is that any increases in natural gas drilling that would stem from export shipments could not be attributed to individual terminals.

In an April decision authorizing Cheniere Energy Inc. to go forward with construction that would equip its Sabine Pass, La., LNG terminal for exports, FERC declined to go into the question of drilling impacts, saying, "An overall increase in nationwide production of shale gas may occur for a variety of reasons, but the location and subsequent production activity is unknown, and too speculative to assume" (EnergyWire, Nov. 29).

But a November report by Sierra Club attorney Craig Segall contradicted that position. Segall pointed to the National Energy Modeling System, a tool used by EIA analysts to forecast the interplay of domestic natural gas supply and demand, as equally well-suited to predicting how domestic production activity would respond to new demand centers, in the form of export terminals, along the U.S. coastline.

Segall said last week that the modeling system argument seems to be gaining traction. "We think we're winning that 'foreseeable' issue," he said.

Ultimately, he said, "One of two things needs to happen. The most sensible would be for FERC to acknowledge [that the review] is a two-step process" that includes a big-picture analysis that looks at how exports drive production, how much hydraulic fracturing that would entail and what alternatives exist to the projects. Both DOE and FERC could then refer to that assessment as needed in the course of their project-specific reviews. The "inefficient" alternative, he said, would be if FERC did not conduct that review, and DOE had to do a supplemental environmental analysis to meet its legal obligation to answer those questions.

Both of those scenarios reflect some optimism from Segall, however. To date, FERC has said via the Sabine Pass ruling, and DOE has agreed via an August authorization for the same project, that natural gas production is outside the scope of the export projects' environmental studies.

An unprecedented step?

For the Sierra Club, the EPA regions' comments to FERC represent the most promising support for its stance from a federal agency. But observers questioned how much it will ultimately matter.

Former FERC Commissioner Marc Spitzer said in an interview that there would be widespread energy policy changes if regulators were to accept the Sierra Club's argument and FERC were to consider the entire gas supply chain when permitting LNG export terminals.

FERC would be forced to conduct the same sweeping reviews for gas pipelines, storage facilities and other infrastructure, he said. "I don't see how you could ever build a pipeline or storage facility in the United States based on that reasoning," Spitzer said.

Spitzer noted that FERC has maintained a firm position in denying such a far-reaching review of gas production when approving LNG terminals, and it's unclear whether the agency will be swayed by the EPA letters.

The former commissioner said he saw many letters from EPA that were fairly neutral on environmental impacts while he oversaw FERC's approval of LNG import terminals. Few had taken as strong a tone as the recent EPA comment on Dominion's Cove Point project, he said.

That letter not only calls for consideration of the upstream project impacts but also asks FERC to spell them out in the form of calculating how many production wells might be required to support new gas demand, and how project implementation would drive demand for new or expanded natural gas pipeline infrastructure.

"The environmental study of the Cove Point Project should be a comprehensive and robust evaluation of potential impacts, which may require a higher level analysis, particularly in consideration of the potential for significant cumulative impacts and the level of community interest," it said.

FERC isn't obligated to follow those suggestions; according to spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen, the agency is free to adopt the recommendations or discard them, though the ultimate plan for the environmental review must address the suggestion and why FERC did not follow it, if that is the path regulators choose.

Observers say that if FERC declines to consider upstream export impacts, officials at DOE can opt to consider the question as part of its "public interest" review of the export terminal proposals.

Segall said that in light of FERC's consistent refusal to look at upstream export impacts, he does not expect the commission to reconsider the issue, but he hopes that DOE will.

Brian O'Neill, an attorney with Van Ness Feldman who focuses on LNG issues, said FERC has an important role as the lead agency and could determine the scope of the government's environmental review of exports. DOE probably won't extend its review to gas production and hydraulic fracturing when approving LNG exports if FERC doesn't set that tone, he said.

"That's not to say the administration may say otherwise, but I don't think DOE is going to depart from the precedent that the FERC has set," O'Neill said.

Special: Mark Your Calendar Now for January Webinars

Just a reminder about an upcoming ASDWA webinar January 9, 2013 to help address agricultural threats:  Tutorial on the Source Water Collaborative's new Toolkit will be offered, along with examples from Maine and Iowa about working with NRCS to help reduce agricultural risks to drinking water supplies.

Also the U.S Water Alliance will conduct a series of webinars titled "Hydraulic Fracturing: Beyond Name Calling to Real Environmental Protection."  First webinar in the series will be Jan 15 2013 from 2:00pm - 3:30pm: "Knowing Your Watershed and Assessing Potential Environmental, Economic and Social Impacts."   Others are listed below.

On Wednesday, January 9, 2013, from 1:00 to 2:30 pm (eastern time), ASDWA and GWPC will hold a webinar on:
“How State Source Water Programs can Work with their USDA Partners to Protect Drinking Water Sources.”

Who should attend:  State drinking water, ground water, clean water, and agriculture programs, EPA Regions, USDA programs, and other interested stakeholders are encouraged to attend.  Please note that we have expanded the audience for the webinar, so please share this information with your agricultural colleagues whom we believe would also benefit from attending.
Why you should attend:  The webinar should be useful for all state water and USDA programs, from those who already have formed a relationship between the state source water program and their USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office (but may be looking for new ideas), to those aiming to build a successful relationship.
The webinar agenda will include:
§  A step-by-step tutorial on how to use the Source Water Collaborative’s new toolkit -
§  Examples from two states who will share their experiences in developing a relationship and working together to protect drinking water sources
§  Maine:  Juan Hernandez (State Conservationist), Andy Tolman (Drinking Water Program), and Kira Jacobs (EPA Region 1)
§  Iowa:   Jay Mar (State Conservationist) and Becky Ohrtman (Drinking Water Program)
§  Audience questions
To register for the webinar, go to:
We hope you are able to join us!

U.S. Water Alliance Webinars - NOTE THESE ARE CENTRAL TIME ZONE - one hour later for Eastern Time Zone

Details at

Webinar 1: Knowing Your Watershed and Assessing Potential Environmental, Economic and Social Impacts
January 15, 2013 | 1:00 – 2:30 pm CST

Webinar 2: Transparency that Benefits All–Disclosing Fracturing Fluids and Operations
February 19, 2013 | 1:00 – 2:30 pm CST
Webinar 3: Practical Considerations for Management, Re-use, and Disposal of “Waste” Waters
March 19, 2013 | 1:00 – 2:30 pm CST
Webinar 4: Closure and Restoration: Final Considerations
April 16, 2013 | 1:00 – 2:30 pm CST

Penn State Extension WEBINAR - January 30, 2013 – A Study of Pre-Drilling Groundwater Quality in 700 Water Wells and Springs in Northcentral Pennsylvania, Jim Clark, Water Resources Educator, McKean County

Additional webinars on various water resources topics will be offered each month - usually on the last Wednesday of the month. A full schedule of webinars for the next 12 months can be found at:

The January, 30, 2013 webinar (noon to 1 PM) will be on A Study of Pre-Drilling Groundwater Quality in 700 Water Wells and Springs in Northcentral Pennsylvania by Jim Clark, a Water Resources Extension Educator with Penn State Extension in McKean County.

Please pass this along to anyone that might be interested in attending these webinars.

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